one country, two islands
When I tell friends and family that I am going to Trinidad and Tobago at the invitation of Visit Trinidad, their first reaction is, “Oh nice! But um, where exactly is it?”. The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a country located in the southeastern corner of the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Venezuela. It consists of two large islands and several smaller islets. The largest island is Trinidad; the island of Tobago is much smaller and less populated.
KLM flies three times a week from Amsterdam to Port of Spain, Trinidad (with a refueling stop at St. Maarten) and back directly to Amsterdam.
Calypso music and steel bands
During our stay in Trinidad, Andrew is our guide. The first day we drive to the city center and visit various monuments. Andrew regularly sings a song/Calypso on the bus, explaining that the Calypso originated from African slaves. Now people still sing Calypso to tell stories or respond to a situation, similar to a rap with us.
There are many steel bands in Trinidad; the steel pan is Trinidad’s musical instrument. Steeldrums are drums made of old oil drums with “dents” in them that allow you to play different tones or notes. It is great fun to experience a Pan Yard experience. We go to a rehearsal of the Phoenix Steel Orchestra in Port of Spain and get to show off our talents ourselves.
Carnival is the folk festival of Trinidad and Tobago and is known as the “Greatest Show on Earth. It is officially celebrated every year on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, at the same time as our carnival. We are not experiencing this, of course, but everyone talks about it with pride and invites us to come back especially during Carnival. It is said to be somewhat similar to Carnival in Rio. Parades with beautiful costumes and swinging steel bands.
The highest point
We tour by jeep to mountain village Paramin which is located at the highest point of the Northern Range Mountains. Along the way, we enjoy spectacular views of the Paramin Valley and the mountains. Vegetables, fruits and spices are grown here. The moment we reach the highest point of the village, it is shrouded in clouds. We take a short hike to Marianne Waterfall before driving back to have lunch on Maracas Bay. Along the way, we buy roadside spices and the famous homemade hot sauce. This one makes dishes even spicier than they already are.
Maracas Bay is Trinidad’s most popular beach where you can find a number of simple eateries where you can eat Bake & Shark; a sandwich with shark fish fillet that you complement yourself with vegetables and sauces. Sort of like Mac Fish but better. After we eat Bake & Shark we enjoy the beautiful beach and take a nice swim in the sea.
In the heart of the city you will find Queen’s Park Savannah, a large park where you can buy fantastic street food in the evening. From local soups to savory fried delicacies, refreshing drinks and spicy “cutters”; Savannah is a great location to enjoy street food and there are long lines in front of the stalls.
Here we taste doubles, a fried flatbread filled with chickpea curry, and the corn soup that everyone loves. Just as popular as doubles is roti, an Indian flatbread with vegetable or curry meat filling. Both dishes are sold all over the island, even for breakfast. We stop frequently along the way to have our own roti put together from the trays with ingredients to choose from. Super tasty and inexpensive.
By the way, you can find street food spots with food stalls and food trucks all over the island where you can go until late. Locals gather there especially on weekends to meet and eat.
- Roti at Moa’s Roti Shop, Trinidad
- Venis in Port of Spain, Trinidad
- Restaurant Seahorse Inn, Tobago
- Jemma’s Treehouse, Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago’s drink is rum punch, a cocktail of raw sugar, water, Angostura bitters, lime juice and juice of another citrus fruit of your choice, nutmeg and, of course, rum. A world-famous rum company where you can take an interesting tour and, of course, taste rum is Angostura Rum.
Flora & Fauna
Argyle Waterfalls, Tobago
Argyle, Tobago’s highest waterfall, attracts not only tourists but also locals who come here for a swim. With a guide, we walk there in just under half an hour. Along the way, he points out the flora and fauna. We mostly see many bird species, herbs and fruits. We swim in the cool water at the lowest waterfall before climbing up.
Caroni bird Sanctuary, Trinidad
At the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, we take a beautiful boat ride including dinner on board. The skipper steers the wooden boat through the mangroves and we see alligators, snakes and many species of birds. Eventually we come to a large lake where we moor to one of the poles in the water to wait for the red ibis, Trinidad’s international bird. At the time we are here, the red ibis is nesting. We see them coming flying in the distance to disappear into the treetops. The large lake is also home to colonies of pink flamingos.
Gasparee Caves, Trinidad
A fun tour from Port of Spain is by (speed) boat to Gaspar Grande Island, an old whaling station, where you can take a short walk to the limestone caves of Trinidad. The steps in the caves lead down to as much as 30 meters underground. It is beautiful there with a little light but very hot and humid.
Trinidad and Tobago is a paradise for birdwatchers. Few places in the world have such a high concentration of tropical birds in such a small land area. Trinidad and Tobago has more than 470 recorded bird species. Tobago is the only Caribbean island with a tropical rainforest.
Leatherback Turtle Nesting Matura
Matura beach is one of the carefully protected places where the leatherback turtle “nests. The period when the turtle lays eggs here is from March to August. We are lucky enough to see two huge turtles laying eggs on the beach at full moon. A turtle lays about 100 eggs the size of ping-pong balls in a hole she digs in the sand with her legs/fins. Then she goes back into the sea and returns only after a few weeks to lay new eggs on the same beach. After about two months, the eggs hatch and the little turtles must find their own way to the sea. Then no one sees them again until after about 25 years when they come to the same beach to lay eggs of their own. Only one in 100 turtles survive to 25 years. As a surprise, our guide saved for us a pair of turtles that had just hatched that day. For me, one of the highlights of the trip!
From Chaguaramas Peninsula, Trinidad’s marina, we sail on a luxury ship past several islands. Along the way, we stop for a BBQ lunch and visit the Gasparee Caves.
On Tobago, you can find nice eateries on the beach at Pigeon Point with a real Caribbean atmosphere. Boat trips leave from the pier to Bucco Reef where you can do beautiful snorkeling and see lots of coral.
Nylon Pool, a coral sandbar where you can stand, got its name when British Princess Margaret visited the area during her honeymoon in 1962. She compared the pool to the transparency of nylon pantyhose. Locals claim that these turquoise waters have rejuvenating powers for those who swim in them. No man’s land is an uninhabited headland where the BBQ is lit, cocktails are served and fine music is played. We try, of course, the rum punch poured from a large bucket.
On Tobago’s northern coast are Bloody Bay and Parlatuvier Bay. The route there is beautiful, through misty tropical rainforest, past viewpoints and beautiful beaches.
I was very surprised by the beauty of these authentic islands where tourism is still in its infancy. The relaxed island vibe, the natural beauty, not to mention the warm-hearted people and their culture make this a destination I can recommend to anyone who loves island life. Where the world can’t find you…